Ohio’s Senate President is against the ‘general notion’ of distracted driving bill

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — The distracted driving bill — which has been touted by Gov. Mike DeWine — faces an uncertain future in the Senate where it faces one major hurdle in Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima).

a man uses his cell phone as he drives through traffic in Dallas
In this Feb. 26, 2013 file photo, a man uses his cell phone as he drives through traffic in Dallas. [AP Photo | LM Otero]
The bill, HB283, would make it a primary offense for a person to be holding their phone while driving if the driver is not holding the phone up to their ear.

Huffman said he is against the “general notion” of the distracted driving ban.

“The issue simply is, if someone is holding a phone in their hand while they’re driving, which isn’t necessarily a good idea, can the police stop someone from that and ticket them? And I’m very concerned about the liberty aspects of that,” said Huffman.

The bill was originally a “hands-free” law, that would make it a primary offense to just be holding a cell phone. However, Republican lawmakers added an amendment in the House to allow a driver to hold the phone up to their ear.

Huffman said there are bills that he would never allow for a floor vote, such as legalizing recreational marijuana.

But he said he would not stand in the way of the distracted driving bill if there’s a “groundswell” of support in the Republican caucus.

The bill passed the House with wide, bipartisan support.

Rep. Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison), a sponsor of the bill, said they heard many stories of families who lost loved ones because of distracted driving.

“It is heartbreaking to hear what these families have gone through. And we can’t sit back and allow this to happen any longer. If we want to reduce traffic related deaths in Ohio, we need laws that encourage us to put our phones down,” said Abrams.

If the bill does not get a vote in the Senate by the end of the year, it would have to be reintroduced in the new General Assembly next year.